April 21st

The weather continues to keep things interesting in the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck Reservoir. Gusty winds and cold water temperatures seem to be the norm during this walleye spawning season. It seems like the wind blows 20+ mph every day and yesterday we had gusts of 40 mph! Today we even had a little bit of ice in the Nelson Creek area. However, we have been back up and running since Monday and checking our nets on a daily basis (with the exception of few nets yesterday).

Water surface temperatures really haven’t warmed much since the last update. Today, water surface temperatures throughout our trap netting locations ranged from 36 to 40 degrees. We have noticed a few more walleye show up in our trap nets, but it hasn’t been a runaway by any means. It’s been a combination of few male walleye and green (holding eggs) walleye and an occasional ripe (releasing eggs) female walleye.

The good news is we were able to hold two egg collections today – one for northern pike and one for walleye. We were able to collect approximately 300,000 more northern pikes eggs and also a little over 3 million walleye eggs today. It isn’t a huge start to the season, but at least we’re finally on the board with some walleye eggs. We will continue to plug away in hopes of catching some more walleye, but the forecast for the upcoming weekend does not look promising with another storm system headed our way.

April 15th

It’s been quite the weather week on Fort Peck Reservoir along with much of Montana. Gusty winds, cold temperatures, and snow have really thrown a wrench into the walleye spawning operation and prevented us from making it out onto the water for a few days. Thankfully, our barges and holding pens remained secured to shore unlike last week. 

Water surface temperatures dropped to 36 degrees while checking our trap nets today and we even had to bust through a thin layer of ice. Because of the storm and drop in temperatures, spawning activity for walleye has really come to a halt. Very few fish have been cruising the shallow shorelines and into our trap nets.  Nighttime temperatures are also forecasted to get into the single digits tonight. These unfavorable conditions have caused us to pull our nets and momentarily hit the pause button for this weekend. No need to fight Mother Nature.

We were able to collect approximately 640,000 northern pikes eggs on Monday before the storm blew through the area. These pike eggs, which will later turn into fry and fingerlings, will be used to meet stocking requests for a handful of small waterbodies here in Montana. Plans are to resume trap netting on Monday so let’s hope weather conditions improve and temperatures start to warm.

Heath Headley

April 10th

The walleye trap netting and egg-taking operation has commenced on Fort Peck Reservoir once again. However, it’s been a challenging and bumpy (literally) start to the season. Compared to last year, lower reservoir elevations have caused us to relocate our operation further down the reservoir between Nelson and McGuire Creek area. High winds over the past week have prevented us from getting out on the water. In fact, our spawning barges and holding pens were pushed up onto shore during the ~60 mph gusts we experienced on Tuesday. These windy conditions have set us back a few days. The one bright spot is water temperatures have been somewhat warm – 43 to 44 degrees while checking our trap nets today.

These temperatures have triggered a few walleye to start cruising the shorelines. As with the beginning of every walleye spawn, male walleye are typically more abundant. That pattern is holding true. A majority of the walleye captured in the trap nets have been males, but we have captured a few green (not releasing eggs) females as well. We have yet to collect any walleye eggs since it’s early and water temperatures are relatively cool. Unfortunately, the weather forecast looks bleak with cold temperatures, high winds, and possible snow accumulations. I hate to say it, but this doesn’t bode well for walleye spawning activity for the upcoming week.

Heath Headley

Fisheries Biologist

Fisheries Division

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Region 6


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